logs in a sand filled play space

The natural playground creates a world to be discovered; it consists of structures built from what exists in nature and allows for children’s creativity to shape their play. Here are some structures, which can be interwoven into a landscape design as a cost effective and equally safe alternative to standard structures.

1. Start with Some Stepping Stumps

Logs, as stepping stones in a sand filled play space

Stepping stumps, as a simple addition to the yard, encourage imaginative play and improve children’s balance and agility skills. These stumps made from tree trunks allow for ample self-constructed play time and can be preserved in a child-friendly manner to increase their durability.

2. Grow a Garden

A raised vegetable garden

One of the best ways to encourage learning is through active engagement with the land. Creating raised beds, in which a child can plant their choosing of vegetables and flowers, gives them a sense of accomplishment as the vegetation grows over time.

3. Design a Labyrinth

A labyrinth in the park

Labyrinths allow a child for focus and find calm in the backyard. Especially if the child finds it difficult to concentrate, labyrinths can help them find a state of peace. Labyrinths also act as a beautiful design and boost the overall aesthetic of the yard.

4. Make Way for Music

Outdoor musical instruments transform an uninspired space into a musical symphony. Beautiful wood Xzylophones, like this one, or entertaining drums, like this Thunder Drum, promote collaboration and connection through music.

5. Blocks for Builders

Play bocks, such as these, encourage teamwork and technical skill building. By providing them with a set of blocks in a variety of sizes, children can create spaces for themselves, others, or the world around them. Each day, a new structure awaits them to be built.

6. Next, a Climbing Net

Climbing nets, like this one are great for improving a child’s balance and dexterity. With this net, the child can engage in play pretend as a spider or cultivate another story from their imagination. By adding sand or play mulch below the net, play becomes even safer.

7. Set up a Scrambling Space

A low boulder in a field of grass

With a hillside, placing a series of rocks to scramble on turns the space into a safe rock climb to navigate. Without a hillside, larger boulders are a fun alternative for exploration. The Natural Playground Company mentions they also work well as amphitheater seating. These boulders, however, are not regulated, so it is up to the parents to use their discretion to determine whether or not it’s safe for their children. In the case that a parent doesn’t feel safe with boulders, smaller stepping stones are a nice alternative.

There’s been a lot written on the subject.  Here’s one general resource: https://www.nwf.org/Kids-and-Family/Connecting-Kids-and-Nature/Nature-Play-Spaces

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